Exploratory and interesting offerings from the engaging Duo Tapas

Duo Tapas: Rupa Maitra – violin and Owen Moriarty – guitar

Pachelbel: Chaconne in D minor (arr. Anton Hoger)
Telemann: Sonata in A minor TWV 41 (arr. Edward Grigassy)
Granados: Spanish Dances, Op 37, Nos 2 and 11 (arr. Vesa Kuokannen)
Alan Thomas: From The Balkan Songbook: Haj Mene Majka, The Shepherd’s Dream, Sivi Grivi

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 9 March, 12:15 pm

Duo Tapas have been long-standing ornaments at St Andrew’s lunchtime concerts and are enterprising in the range of music they find to perform. That of course is due mainly to the lack of music written specifically for the two instruments, although the pair lend themselves readily to music for violin and piano and for the guitar, accompanying many other instruments.

Unusually, they began with a piece by Pachelbel for organ which might have seemed a stretch. The result was far from it as so much baroque music does not seem to be designed with particular instrumental sounds in mind. (which, dare I say, often makes our generation’s obsession with authentic performance, using instruments that get as close as possible to those of the period, seem a bit precious). To start with, the melodic characteristics of this chaconne reminded one of his famous Canon; but it went much further, to elaborate the themes more fancifully than happens in the Canon, so demonstrating that Pachelbel was not only more than a one-hit wonder, but a worthy contemporary of Bach’s predecessors such as Buxtehude (he was Buxtehude’s contemporary, of the generation of Corelli, Purcell, Alessandro Scarlatti, Biber, Charpentier, Marin Marais…).

The music breathed, and seemed to relish the experience of instruments that so clarified and illuminated the sounds as the violin and guitar did.  Sure, it wasn’t Bach, but an awareness of the mind and the sounds of Bach did not work to its detriment.

Telemann was born 30 years after Pachelbel, and lived most of his life in the northern parts of Germany – Saxony, Thuringia, Hamburg – and he was immensely prolific. The sonata, TWV 41 was originally for oboe and continuo and again sounded charming as arranged, though I suspect that the slow, lyrical Siciliana first movement might have been more beguiling with an oboe. This, and indeed all the movements were short, without much embellishment or repetition of the tunes.

The second movement was entitled simply Spirituoso , more lively with the two players exploiting the light and shade with fluency and warmth even though the guitar had little more than a routine accompaniment to handle. The Andante did rather create the feeling of a stroll through shady woods, the recipe for relief from the busy life as musical director of Hamburg’s five main churches (the breathtaking baroque interior of St Michaelis adorns the desktop of my computer; I ticked off all five churches in a visit a few years ago).  Though the Vivace movement was lively enough, it was also vapid and forgettable; the performance however drew even more from the music than was really there.

Two of Granados’s Spanish Dances were much more enjoyable. No 2, Orientale and No 11, Zambra were both familiar; these were the high point of the recital. In the enchanting Orientale the violin generates a particularly warm, liquid atmosphere with its beguiling melodies while the guitar unobtrusively supported her in elegant arpeggios. In the Zambra, Maitra’s dark, sensuous violin maintained a sombre quality through music that was superficially more spirited, and while Moriarty’s guitar was confined in the main to arpeggios, but he took advantage of a lively repeat of the main tune in the middle section. Granados’s music is rather neglected these days: as well as the popular No 5, Andaluza, most of this set of twelve dances deserve to be more played. And I am reminded of the fine 1998 Meridian recording by Richard Mapp of a good selection of the piano music.

The web-site of American guitarist/composer Alan Thomas shows that his ‘work-in-progress’ The Balkan Songbook has eleven pieces in it so far. The Duo played three of them. Haj Mene Majka (which Google Translate shows as Croatian, meaning ‘Hi my mother’) certainly has the character of peasant Croatian music with its fast South Slavic decorations, and the apostrophe to the composer’s mother is arresting rather than affectionate.

The Shepherd’s Dream starts with the violin alone and slowly swells beyond the dream state; this too is described in the notes as Croatian, though introduced with a few words of W B Yeats, ‘And I dreamed my lost love came stealthily out of the wood’. (It’s from ‘He tells of a valley full of lovers’ from the collection The Wind among the Reeds. I was impressed that the composer was so familiar with the huge body of Yeats’s poetry that he could light upon this).  And indeed, the words seem to align with the music which slowly diminishes and ceases.

Sivi Grivi was said to be based on a Bulgarian dance, but the ever-reliable Google Translate identified the words as Slovenian, meaning ‘Gray mane’. The guitar begins with a hesitant meandering; the violin soon joins to create a dance rhythm of increasing energy to an exciting finish.

As always, I found this musical duo interesting, musical and exploratory, with a nice mixture of the known and the unknown; just the thing for midday, leaving the rest of the day to reflect and explore further.


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